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The Case for Borough Term Limits
- Vote YES

Guest editorial printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner October 6, 1997

By Donna Gilbert

By Donna Gilbert

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The pursuit of term limits is sweeping our nation, and municipal term limits are the most prevalent component of that movement. Beginning as far back as 1851, local limits have spread steadily across the country. They have been passing by an average of 70 percent of the vote, even higher than national averages for congressional and state legislative limits.

Our borough assembly would have us believe that it is just a passing fad - that voters are now changing their minds and don't want limits. But municipal limits mirror the national term limit movement and demonstrate the concept's longevity. Often resisted by politicians, when passed they change both the way elected officials work and who runs for office.

By December of 1995, municipal term limits were in effect in nearly 3,000 cities, including eight of the 10 most populous cities in America, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, and Denver, changing our country's political culture and paving the way to real reform at the state and national levels. From Florida to Alaska, from New York to California, over 58 million Americans live with limits of various sorts. Virtually everywhere voters are given the chance, they pass measures to limit the terms of city officials.

The question of term limits has revealed the split between Washington-based groups, such as the National League of Women Voters, and their counterparts at the grassroots level. While our League has taken a stand against limits, that is not true everywhere.

NLWV president Becky Cain, speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee on congressional term limits, stated: "As an organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing the role of citizens in our representative democracy, the League strongly opposes term limits....Term limits would limit the field of potential candidates for public office."

Yet, only one week before, in discussing the action of the city council in Florence, Alabama, which voted to end term limits on city board members, the local president of the League of Women Voters, Susan Zuber, rebuked the change stating, "I'm worried this may be a step backwards for Florence.... the current process of limiting terms allows for more participation by rotating."

The most competitive elections tend to be those where no incumbent is running. Many potential candidates choose not to run for office when faced with running against a sitting officeholder, because of the tremendous advantages of incumbency.

A study by L. Sandy Maisel attempted to determine the reasons why potential candidates choose not to run for public office. He found that 60% of those surveyed thought that the task of unseating an incumbent, rather than running for an open seat, was too great. In fact, Maisel found it THE ONLY SIGNIFICANT FACTOR INVOLVED in determining who ran for office.

Some interesting tendencies have been found where there are no term limits. A 1993 study in California found lower education levels, more male council members, and much more of a partisan imbalance in those NON-Term limited cities. The gender imbalance is interesting, considering the National LWV's opposition to term limits. One could conclude that they are arguing against themselves!

Term limits have been the subject of lawsuits. Even so, city limitations have withstood judicial scrutiny in almost every challenge

Attorney Duncan Scott is quoted as having said, "We have a handful of incumbents trying to thwart the will of 72 percent of the voters.... These people really believe they own the office and will only be dragged from office with their fingernails clutching their desks." This reminds me of our own assemblymen, such as Layne St. John, Cole Sonafrank, and Hank Bartos who wanted to remove our limits without letting the people vote on them!

Time after time, in city after city, voters pass municipal term limits in high percentages. Local limits transform political culture from one of entrenched careers to one of citizen representation. Opinion polls consistently show overwhelming support for term limits and the abundance of term limits at this level proves how deep the desire to limit terms is in the United States.

Although term limits were not meant to solve all our political problems, they are a popular reform, based on obtaining equal representation and putting competitiveness back into elections Over time, more candidates with a wider diversity of views will seek legislative "open seats" made available by the regular turnover, reinvigorating political life and restoring legitimacy to our representative system.

That is why we need term limits, and why I urge your YES vote Tuesday.

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Candidate endorsements on this Web Site are not authorized, paid for, nor approved by any candidate. ITA, as a non-profit organization, does not give money to candidates. ITA is solely responsible for the content of everything appearing on these pages unless otherwise noted. We believe in the truth and are proud of our research. We stand ready to back up anything we say here, with the originating documents if necessary. However, we will not be responsible for inaccuracies found in other's documentation.

Paid for by The Interior Taxpayers' Association, Inc. PO Box 71892, Fairbanks AK 99707,
Donna Gilbert, President  ITA Phone (907) 456-8031.
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